Wednesday, November 12, 2008

martyrs and victims

i've been thinking a lot lately about the difference between these two words.

jesus tells us to turn the other cheek, to lay down our lives, to prioritize others, and to go the extra mile.

jesus tells us to love our enemies.

but what about instances in which someone is being victimized? for example, should we tell the rape victim to turn the other cheek? to not report her rapist? to forgive her rapist? to "go the extra mile?"

of course not.

see, jesus was calling us to lay down our lives.


as martyrs

martyrs are witnesses (that's the literal meaning of the word). jesus went willingly unto death as a sacrifice for all humanity. his life and sacrificial death bore witness to the immense love of god for all the world.

but he was not a victim.

in fact, at least one other time "they" came to get jesus, presumably to kill him, and he escaped through a crowd. he avoided their malice. he slipped the noose, escaped the trap, and most certainly did not "go the extra mile" in order to allow evil-doers to do whatever they wanted.

they wanted to kill him, but he was not ready. had they done so then he would have been a victim not a martyr because his death would not have born witness.

witness is voluntary. witness is intentional. witness is prophetic.

victimization, on the other hand, is criminal.

i say all of this because of how frequently i hear people tell tales of personal suffering that seem guided and governed by a misunderstanding of jesus' teachings.

they think they should move back in with their abusive husband because they're supposed to turn the other cheek...and so they get abused again, and their children get beaten, and they persist in their misery.

but jesus didn't come to enslave us to abuse; he came to set us free.

free from victimization.

being bullied is not proof that we are followers of jesus' teachings; standing up to bullies in ways that re-value human life and dignity are.

the martyr always understands that people are worth a great deal.
the victim thinks they are worthless.

the martyr goes willingly into suffering SO THAT the powers of evil will be exhausted and exposed.
the victim suffers evil BECAUSE the wicked go unopposed.

there is a great difference in these two things.

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